THE evening was off to a good start. There was gin and tonic with the salad—shredded lettuce, diced shrimps and singkamas with a creamy, lemon grass-tinged dressing, spooned onto freshly popped shrimp crackers. And then we had everything with Champagne. Duck pancakes—shredded itik duck meat and wisps of carrot, bound together with a sweet-tart sauce and tucked into fresh tortilla pockets. Fillet of tilapia cooked in coconut milk on a bed of malunggay leaves. Lechon kawali with liver sauce. Nicolas Delion, Champagne Taittinger export director, was grinning broadly. It was his first encounter with Filipino cuisine at Sentro 1771. He liked everything, he said, and the deep-fried pork belly (lechon kawali) was the best—with the Taittinger Nocturne Sec.
Just the day before, we had the same Champagne Nocturne with foie gras poêlé, raspberry and toasted brioche at Mirèio, the brasserie at Raffles, known for its Provençal-inspired menu. It was then that Nicolas had presented the other Taittinger cuvées at the well-attended dinner that included Champagne enthusiasts and the new French Ambassador to the Philippines, Nicolas Galey.
The Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2006 was undoubtedly the star of the evening, but the other Champagnes were not eclipsed: Taittinger Brut Millesimé 2012, Taittinger Prestige Rosé NV, Taittinger Brut Reserve NV and the Taittinger Nocturne Sec NV. Each one stood out on its own—paired from starter to dessert—with the fresh, vivid flavors of Chef Hervé Clair’s menu.
Champagne may be the most underrated food partner. And it’s not just for toasting, too. Yes, the bubbles look pretty in the long, tall glass called the flute, but while the shape of the glass allows you to enjoy the bubbles, you do miss out on the wine’s gorgeous aromas. It’s perfectly alright, even better, to drink it from a regular white wine glass. But won’t the bubbles dissipate faster in a wide-mouthed glass? If that happens, it only means you’re drinking too slow.
Remember, too, that Champagne comes in many different styles and can be sweet or dry (not sweet) and thus can be labelled from Brut Sauvage (very dry) and Brut (dry), to Sec, Demi-sec and Doux, the sweetest, in ascending levels of sweetness. There is rosé Champagne made from blending red and white wines. Non-vintage (NV) Champagne is made from a blend of grapes (only Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) from different years and matured for at least 15 months on the lees. Vintage Champagne must come from grapes harvested from a single year and must be aged for at least three years. Blanc de Blancs Champagne is made entirely from Chardonnay grapes and is the longest lived (and most expensive) of all Champagnes. (Blanc de Noirs Champagne is the opposite, made only from the red grape varieties Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.)
Which style to drink is as much about preference as it is dependent on how much one is willing to spend. Although I love a Blanc de Blancs, and an occasional rosé Champagne, my wallet allows me also the occasional Brut NV, the least expensive style. Most Brut Champagne also come in the half bottle size, making it even easier on the wallet. The Taittinger Brut Reserve NV, for example, is available in the small, 375-ml bottle. But for versatility and price point (and sheer fun, too, because the Nocturne Citylights bottle glows in the dark), I’d turn to the Taittinger Nocturne Sec. Champagne Sec is the style that allows one to “feel” the sweetness in the wine. The Nocturne, made with 40 percent Chardonnay and 70 percent of the two Pinots (Noir and Meunier), is on the lower end of the Sec sweetness scale, making for a rich, creamy, barely-there-sweetness experience, capped by those amazing bubbles. The Taittinger Nocturne Sec with pan-seared foie gras is a classic; with the lechon kawali and tilapia in coconut milk, it was absolutely rock ’n roll.
I’ve also had the Nocturne in an impromptu “picnic” in my hotel room, close to midnight, after a long flight with airport-bought cheese and crackers, drank in the water glasses I took from the bathroom. The Taittinger Prestige Rosé, I preferred (more than the red wine) with the steak at one dinner at I’m Angus. My precious bottle of the Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2002, I drank three years ago, at the beach while watching the sunset. Every moment with Champagne is special and worth remembering. And this is how Champagne is best enjoyed—not overly chilled, not necessarily in a flute, not always at dinner, not always to celebrate something, not always with oysters or foie gras, but always with the people you like and most certainly with the person you love.
Champagne Taittinger is available at all Säntis Deli stores:
Taittinger Brut Reserve NV – P3,060
Taittinger Brut Reserve NV (375ml/half bottle) – P1,618
Taittinger Nocturne Sec NV – P3,121
Taittinger Prestige Rosé NV – P3,740
Taittinger Brut Millesimé 2012 – P3,740
Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2006 – P9,901.